Tampa Bay making a difference through Sandy relief efforts

8:39 PM, Nov 10, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA BAY, Florida -- Normally, the showroom at Wesley Chapel Nissan is filled with cars. Today, it's packed with boxes.

"We have no room for cars in our showroom right now," says Troy Stevenson, the dealership's Internet director.

For the last five days, they've been collecting donations for people recovering from Superstorm Sandy, and the nor'easter that followed. Customers have donated cans of food. A group called Support the Troops chipped in more than 200,000 boxes of cookies. The dealership itself bought generators.

"I am overwhelmed and blessed right now," Stevenson says. "I can't believe the support the Tampa Bay market did to help people from up north."

On Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, a tractor trailer donated by Walmart will pick up all the items. The Pasco County Sheriff's Office will provide an escort out of town as the group, with the help of The Lions Club, travels to Toms River, New Jersey. It's truly a team effort. 

At the Red Barn Flea Market, Beth Bloomingdale, owner of All About Leather, is taking donations as well. She'll be continuing her efforts on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the flea market. A volunteer driver will take all the items up north, but is still searching for a truck to borrow.


"These neighborhoods are flattened. They feel like my family up there," she says. "I don't have a lot of money, but I do have time and am able to do this. I feel compelled to help in some way."

The St. Petersburg Association of Firefighters Union 747 also collected donations. Right now, firefighter Chris Spafford is driving them up to New Jersey, where he grew up. He knows it'll be overwhelming to see the damage in person, but he wants to help. 

"Being down in Florida, watching everything, feeling so helpless down there, just not being able to to do something, that's what made me come up with the idea to get the drive going," Spafford told 10 News over the phone from Columbia, South Carolina. "We got a 24-foot truck, and to fill it up from top to bottom, front to back with boxes of clothes, food, water -- it's just amazing."

He's scheduled to arrive in New Jersey on Sunday morning. Any cash contributions not used on fuel will also be donated to relief efforts.

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